San Diego Padres: Asuaje seizing opportunity to shine
San Diego Padres second baseman Carlos Asuaje has proven himself valuable coming in off the bench and making a difference in his limited playing time.
Few anticipated what they were going to see in the top of the seventh inning at Coors Field on Tuesday night. The Rockies had just scored to extend their lead to 9-6, and the Padres were in trouble. But one young hitter wasn’t going to let that get to him.
Second baseman Carlos Asuaje may be small, but all 158 pounds of him was enough to crush the baseball over the right-center field wall for his first career major league home run. And even better, just like he aimed for it, Asuaje’s blast ended up in San Diego’s bullpen, ensuring him the opportunity to keep the baseball and remember this milestone forever.
Asuaje’s success has been evident based on so much more than his first home run. The 25-year-old had a somewhat lengthy journey to the majors, and his hard work and perseverance is finally beginning to really pay off.
Coming into spring training, the Padres weren’t even sure they had a roster spot for Asuaje. They had a busy second base position with Cory Spangenberg and Ryan Schimpf also in the mix, and Asuaje had the least amount of experience among the three. However, circumstances early in the season which weren’t always the best for the club as a whole have served as blessings in disguise.
Seeing Schimpf struggle so much to the point of being sent to AAA El Paso wasn’t pleasant. It was also somewhat awkward to have Spangenberg and former third baseman Yangervis Solarte seemingly randomly swap positions right in the middle of the season. But these factors, coupled with a Solarte injury, has allowed Asuaje to get his opportunity to start at second base. And so far, the Venezuelan has not disappointed.
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Asuaje had 25 major league plate appearances in 2016, hitting .208. This season, he’s already up to 80, and hitting at a much better clip at .315. His 23 hits exceed his 19 strikeouts, and his speed makes him dangerous on the base paths.
Solarte is only on the 10-day DL with oblique soreness, meaning that a return is in his near future. This will once again complicate matters for Asuaje. But thanks to the way he has played in his opportunity to start, Asuaje will be sticking around, especially due to his ability to play at third and in the outfield as well.
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There will certainly be many more peaks and valleys to the young career of the 5-foot-9 second baseman. But his coming out part has been nothing but a joy to witness, as it gives the Padres a little bit more depth than even they thought they had.